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Ireland, No- 10.] 



Sir, — Although I have no claim upon your valuable space, I 
shall feel indebted if I am permitted in your columns to give 
utterance to my regret at what is about to take place. It is to 
be proposed, in the name of the Liberals of England and Scot- 
land, and by a Prime Minister who has done gigantic services 
on the side of the Liberal party, that a million of capable citi- 
zens, guiltless of crime against the Empire, shall be taken down 
from the rank to which they were born — the rank of citizens 
on a par with men in Yorkshire or the Lothians — and shall be 
reduced to the grade of citizens on condition ; the condition 
being that before they can enjoy the immunities of the Empire 
they must first be subjects of the Irish National League, and take 
their laws from a Parliament formed of men selected by its 
seventeen hundred branches. 

Being one of those who have always held that every inequality 
inflicted by law on any class of our fellow-subjects should be 
removed, I have gladly supported Mr. Gladstone in every step 
taken in that direction. As in the past so, to-day, I should claim 
for the peasant in Mayo or Clare precisely the same rights as for 
the peasant in Antrim, Kent, or Perthshire ; should claim for 
the Eoman Catholic priest the same freedom, and the same pro- 
tection of the laws, as for every other minister of religion, neither 
more nor less; and should claim for Ireland or its provinces 
precisely the same measure of local self-government as for any 
portions of England, Scotland or Wales. Exceptional legislation 

-r . Q f V"/ < /a .."" '"" 

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as for any class, or as against any class, I hold to be first wrong 
and then mischievous. 

These principles, however, condemn what is now demanded 
on behalf of the Eoman Catholic majority in Ireland. What 
they claim is not the removal of any inequality, or the abolition 
of any exceptional privileges. It is the founding in their own 
favour, by exceptional legislation, of new privileges, in both 
legislative and executive power. They claim what no three or 
four millions out of thirty-five millions possess or would dream of 
claiming — namely, that they shall themselves be exempted from 
the balancing control of the thirty millions of the United King- 
dom ; and, further, that the loyal Irish shall be deprived of the 
.safeguard afforded by the same balancing control. 

Is it not the same case as if the Nonconformists of Scotland 
and Wales, instead of asking that they should be relieved of 
inequalities upheld by law in favour of a minority, and asking it 
loyally and peaceably, should ask to be relieved from all legis- 
lative control but their own ; also to have in each case the 
minority subjected to their legislation — ay, and should ask this 
with menace to life, to property, to the very forms of the national 
Legislature itself? 

We are told of Home Rule in the Colonies. Was there 
•ever a case in which a colony was handed over to a disloyal 
majority, supported by violently hostile sympathisers in America, 
-and that in face of the protests and entreaties of a loyal minority 
in distress, at great danger, as they believe, to botii their civil 
.and religious interests ? 

Home Eule in the case of a colony meant that people 
previously destitute of any place in the Imperial Legislature were 
taken out of the pupilage of the Colonial Office and raised to 
Parliamentary Government. It did not mean that people 
possessed of hereditary rights in the Imperial Legislature were 
to be subjected to the yoke of a local majority, which they 
dreaded. Once more, in descriptions of the organisation of the 
National League, we are told how its onicers declared that its 
branches numbered 1,700, and that in almost every case a priest 
was either the president or secretary. Now, was there ever a 
colony in which every district was ruled by a junta, headed by a 
Bom an Catholic priest ? 

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Take the Liberals of any Eoinan Catholic country— say 
Belgium, France, Bavaria, or Italy— and ask them:— Given a 
section of a united kingdom, with three-fourths Eoman Catholics 
and one-fourth Protestants, the Eoman Catholics being organised 
In local committees, presided over by priests, and claiming that 
the national Legislature shall cease to make laws for both 
parties in common, and leave that to a local chamber ; would it 
be liberal policy to carry that wish into effect ? They would say 
such a policy would be impossible to a Liberal statesman, would 
scarcely be possible to a Conservative one, would be that of a 
reactionary or a clerical one. 

We are told of Home Eule in the United States. Was there 
ever a State with this system of priest-ruled juntas, or ever a 
State where laws were not subjected to a supreme court, above 
even the national legislature ? Home Eule, or States Eights, 
has already cost America four years of civil war, and may cost 
trouble again. 

So long as Mr. Gladstone was redressing inequalities or in- 
justice, those of us who could only smile at promises of " settling," 
4( satisfying," and " reconciling," were bound to support him as 
much as if we believed in such illusions ; just because the prin- 
ciples were liberal, and the attempt to give effect to them right. 
.But it is another matter when Mr. Gladstone comes forward 
proposing to erect new and exceptional powers for one section 
of population, and from another section, not less worthy, to 
shear away their born rights and their protection vehemently 
prized. Does not Mr. Gladstone here cross the line of equal 
rights ? Does he not allow himself to be carried off the Liberal 
ground — that of free and equal legislation — on to the high Tory 
ground of employing authority to put down equal rights, and to 
set up physical might and ecclesiastical pretension ? 

We are told that the men of Ulster are only 800,000, and 
even if they do rebel, the 30,000,000 of England and Scotland 
can put them down. Yes ; thirty to one would put them down. 
But do Englishmen and Scotchmen feel that it would be right 
to put the bayonet, thirty to one, to the breast of every Irish 
Loyalist, and say : Submit to the Priests' Parliament ? 

If the Nonconformists of England and Scotland allow thorn- 

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selves to be manipulated to the hurt of their fellow Protestants 
in Ireland, by setting up Eoman ascendancy (where they, on 
principle, helped to put down Protestant ascendancy), they wall 
do a great injustice to the cause of civil and religious liberty, of 
which they have in the past been the pioneers and watchmen all 
over the world. Happily for them, they can but imperfectly 
judge the case ; no man can well judge of it unless he has lived 
in Ireland, or in the Eoman States or Naples, when they were 
ruled by priests. The principles of Nonconformists led them 
fearlessly up to the line of equal rights — a line to which, for 
them, Mr. Gladstone never came. The same principles call them 
to stand like men, as soon as it is proposed to pass that line by 
conferring on one body exceptional powers, and depriving 
another of protection inherited, needed, and violating the equal 
rights of no man. I cannot conceive how any Nonconformist, 
Scotch or English, after time has allowed the first impetus of 
party cohesion to subside, can for a moment think of depriving 
the Protestants of Ireland of the civil and religious guarantees 
which the Constitution accords to them, and of placing them in 
the power of a Parliament composed as they know one in Dublin 
would be composed. If they stand by and see this effected, they 
will undo much of the work done by their fathers, and will leave 
to their children weary tasks in attempting to repair breaches 
made by their unfaithfulness. 

I am, Sir, your obedient servant, 

Ex-President "Wesley an Conference. 
London, April 24. 

Published bt the Liberal Committee for the Maintenance of thf. 

Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland, 

35^ Spring Gardens, S.W.